The next morning, Gabe dropped Rose and Liam off at school and headed into town with the money Angela had given him. He wandered up and down the high street for a while, wondering which shop to go in first. He had almost five hundred pounds to buy an entire set of clothes. Finally, he decided to go and get a suit first, since it was the easiest thing to buy. He had no idea what sorts of clothes he should buy; casual stuff, smart stuff? He had no idea what Angela expected him to do with her.
He wandered up and down Marks and Spencer's for a few minutes, before he selected a deep navy blue suit and three ties, two conservative, solid colours, the other blue and red striped. He went to the changing rooms and tried the suit on, surprised to find he liked the way he looked in it. The deep blue brought out his blue eyes nicely. He bought the suit and headed back to the high street. He wandered for a little longer, before he went into a shop that seemed to do a nice mix of casual and smart clothes.
Gabe wandered up and down the clothes racks, occasionally grabbing a shirt or pair of jeans from the rack. After he'd tried the lot on, he had three pair of jeans, one pair of smart-ish trousers, three polo shirts, two button-up shirts, a sweater and a new leather jacket. He wandered home with his bags of clothes, and hung them up immediately in his almost-bare wardrobe. It looked a little fuller once his new clothes were in there. He wondered what to do next.
He finally just went downstairs and watched TV for a while. He flicked through the TV channels for a while, before he settled on a re-run of 'Friends'. He'd once enjoyed the show, but had little time now for watching any TV at all, because the kids took up most of his time and effort. He watched the re-runs for a couple of hours, before having a quick lunch and running upstairs for a shower.
He stood in front of his wardrobe for a while, eyeing his new clothes. He finally decided on a pair of jeans, a blue button-up shirt and his new leather jacket. He fished Angela's address from the pocket of his trench coat and set off. Her house was on the other side of town, and it took him almost an hour to reach it. He stood outside a pair of wrought-iron gates for a moment, feeling very intimidated, before he pressed the intercom buzzer and waited patiently.
"Who is it?" Angela's voice came cheerily through the speaker.
"It's me, Gabriel." Gabe replied. He heard a buzzer sound and pushed open one of the gates. He slipped through, closing the gate securely behind him, and set off up the driveway. It took him ten minutes to reach the house, which came into view around a grove of plum trees as the drive twisted.
Spiralling white stone columns supported a large porch, neatly arranged with various hanging baskets and potted shrubs. A large old oak wooden door opened as Gabriel approached, to admit him into a huge entrance hall, stylishly furnished with several tables, old-fashioned, high-back chairs, paintings and tapestries on the wall, and a large tiger-skin rug upon the marble floor.
"Hi, Gabe." Angela popped up over a railed balcony that ran down one length of the second level of the hall. Gabriel smiled at her and raised his hand in greeting. She trotted down the stairs and leant up to kiss him. Seeing another pair of hands appear on the railing, Gabe wrapped his arms around her and kissed her harder. Angela smiled against his lips and returned his kiss for a moment, before she drew back with a smile. She was wearing a pale yellow summer dress with white sandals.
"You look pretty." He told her. He glanced up at the balcony, and motioned the hands still on the white marble. "Is that him?" Angela nodded.
"Bailey! Come down here." The fingers tapped the marble impatiently, before a tall young man appeared at the top of the stairs. Gabriel could immediately see why Angela fancied Bailey. He had dark brown, almost black, hair, which was cut into no particular style, but which he wore very well, loose about his ears. He had penetrating blue eyes, several shades darker than Gabe's. His body was bigger than Gabe's; he was heavily muscled, but not in the body-builder way. His semi-tight shirt hinted at a swimmers physique more than that of a rugby player. "Bailey, this is Gabriel. Gabe, Bailey."
"Hello." Gabriel stuck out his hand, and waited for Bailey to take it. The taller boy stared at it for a moment, before he nodded curtly.
"Are we going Ange, or not?" He asked. Gabriel let his hand fall back to his side, unable to stop a slight frown. Angela smiled reassuringly at him, and nodded at Bailey.
"Come on, Gabe. You're coming too."
"Riding." Angela said happily.
"Bikes?" Gabe said, feeling worried. He couldn't ride a bike. No-one had ever taught him. No-one had ever even bought him a bike. Angela laughed.
"Not bikes. Horses. Come on."
"Oh…" Gabriel was even more worried by that. "I've… never ridden a horse before."
"Don't bother coming with us then." Bailey said rudely. Gabe glared at him.
"Bailey, don't be mean. We can teach Gabe the basics." Angela linked her arm through Gabriel's and tugged him back out the front door. Gabriel followed Angela around the side of the house, which took ten minutes to walk around, passing rows of neatly planted plum trees, acres of wild flowers, and a huge forest of pine trees located towards the back of the land. A long stable block was build close to the forest, big enough to house close to twenty horses. A large concrete yard, clean and freshly swept, allowed horses from all the stables to be tethered to iron rings to be washed and groomed, a long drinking trough was built to one end, and a small barn which housed hay, horse feed, tack and grooming equipment was just to the side of the stable block.
"Hi, Harvey." Angela greeted the groom pleasantly, and headed for one of the stalls.
"Morning, Miss. Starlight today?" Angela nodded. "And Air for you, Master Bailey?" Bailey nodded. The groom fetched two horses, one a dainty, pretty palomino mare, the other a long-legged, heavy-chested bay gelding, and quickly tacked them. Bailey mounted as soon as Air was saddled, and trotted off to the paddocks.
"Ignore him." Angela said to Gabe. "He's nice once you get to know him. Now, which horse do you want?" Gabriel shrugged.
"A gentle one." He said firmly. "That's a bit slow." Angela grinned, and motioned him over to a stable on the end of the block.
"He should do." She motioned the tall, stocky grey gelding in the stall.
"He's huge." Gabe said nervously.
"He's twenty five. He's my dad's old horse. He's a bit lazy now-a-days, so you should be fine with him. Can we have Shah saddled, please, Harvey." Angela called. She mounted her own horse and waited as Gabe tried to scramble up into the huge grey's saddle. Finally, the groom took pity on him and shoved him up into the saddle.
"Thanks." Gabe muttered, blushing.
"Come on." Angela gently heeled Starlight's sides, and the mare trotted off towards the paddock. Gabe felt his horse shift beneath him, and gripped the reigns tightly, ready for it to follow Angela. However, he realised a moment later, the horse had just shifted his position a little to rest one of his back legs.
"Well… go on, then." Gabe told it. "Walk." The horse snorted loudly, and shook its head. "Follow her." Gabriel nudged the horse's neck.
"Kick him." The groom said, his expression amused as he watched Gabe.
"I'm not kicking a horse." Gabriel said firmly.
"Just gently. I'm not suggesting you try to break his leg or anything." The groom grabbed Gabe's leg and pressed it firmly against the horse's side. The horse snorted again, and set off at a slow walk after Angela. Gabe clung on tightly, and tried to adjust to the swaying of the horse. The horse stopped at the gate of the paddock, and Gabe sat and watched Bailey and Angela showing off over jumps and around tight corners. Thankfully, his grey seemed quite happy to wander along the side of the paddock and graze while he watched, although he did constantly feel like he was going to fall off the big grey's neck as it put its head down to graze.
"Come on Gabe." Angela called him across after half an hour or so. "Your turn." Gabriel gently nudged the grey's side, and the horse reluctantly plodded over to the gate, which Angela had opened. "Go over that one there." She pointed out a jump that was, basically, just a long pole resting in the sand. Gabe nudged the horse forwards, and jolted slightly as the horse's large hooves lifted a little higher to walk over the pole. Bailey snorted derisively from behind him. Gabriel turned in the saddle and stuck his tongue out at the rich boy. Angela grinned at Gabe, and pointed him to the next one. "That one next. Make him trot towards it." Gabe looked at his next jump; a pole raised about four inches off the ground. He nudged the grey again, and it broke into a reluctant trot. Gabe jiggled around on the horses back as it moved towards the jump. With another jolt, Gabe was over it smoothly. He grinned at Angela, ignoring Bailey's bored look. Gabe noticed the shadows were growing longer on the ground and looked at his watch.
"I should get going." He told Angela. "I have to pick my brother and sister up from school." She nodded, and walked her horse back towards the stables with him.
"Did you enjoy it?" She asked, smiling. Gabe nodded.
"It was… different." He slid from his horse and handed the reins to Harvey. "So… when should I next see you?" He asked tentatively, seeing Bailey also returning to the stables.
"Tomorrow?" Angela asked. "I can meet you in town, if you like." Gabe nodded.
"Sure… around one? There's a little coffee shop near NEXT that my brother says is nice." Angela nodded, and handed him a slip of paper, and an envelope, which he quickly slid into his pocket.
"That's your 'wages' and my mobile number. Call me sometime." Gabe nodded slowly.
"I… don't have a mobile, so-"
"Call from a landline then." Gabe grinned.
"Alright. See you tomorrow." Seeing Bailey watching them from the end of the stable block, still looking bored by everything, Gabriel leant down and kissed Angela passionately for a long moment. He drew back with a smirk, said goodbye again, and wandered back towards the front of the house. He heard footsteps behind him as he walked down the gravel driveway and turned to see Bailey walked after him. After a moment's deliberation, Gabe slowed down and let Bailey catch him up. The taller boy fell into step beside him silently, his eyes averted to the ground. Gabriel wondered about the boy's unfriendliness for a moment, before shrugging it off and continuing down the driveway.
"Don't think I don't know what she's doing." Bailey said after a long silence. Gabriel looked over at him.
"She's done this before, you know." Bailey said. "Brought strangers home with her, introducing them as boyfriends, old friends, school friends." He snorted. "I know she does it to make me jealous."
"No… I love Ange, but like a friend, like a sister. Not in the way she likes me."
"So why not tell her that? She might move on once she knows."
"I have told her." Bailey snapped. "She refuses to listen." He looked at Gabriel for a moment, before he said softly, "I'm gay too." Gabriel frowned at him.
"How do you know I'm gay?" Bailey shrugged.
"Just a feeling."
"Why haven't you told her?" Gabe asked. "She might understand then."
"I've never told anyone before." He said quietly. "I… I love Ange, but she can't keep a secret to save her life." Gabe sighed.
"So, what? You want me to break up with her?" Bailey nodded.
"Just end whatever agreement you have with her." Gabriel thought for a moment, before he shrugged.
"I'll try. I'm meeting her tomorrow, so…"
"Thanks." Bailey said quietly.
"If she refuses, though… you should probably tell her." Gabriel said quietly. They reached the end of the driveway, and Gabe saw a sleek, shiny sports car parked on the road. Bailey unlocked it and motioned the passenger door.
"Need a lift?" Gabriel paused for a moment, before he nodded slowly and slid into the leather seat. He stared around the car for a moment, taking in the polished wooden dashboard and many knobs and buttons. Bailey sat in the drivers' seat and started the engine, which spluttered to life with a roar. To Gabe's surprise, Bailey showed a little restraint as he drove, only exceeding the speed limit by about twenty miles an hour. Gabriel directed Bailey to the twins' school, and clambered out of the car thankfully.
"Thanks for the ride." Gabe said quietly, closing the door before Bailey could reply and running up to the school doors.